How Churches Can Use Coworking Incubators To Encourage Entrepreneurship

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Posted: Nov 20, 2018 10:33 AM
How Churches Can Use Coworking Incubators To Encourage Entrepreneurship

“You mean your church has a built-in coffee shop, and it’s only open for Sunday church?”

That’s what I asked a church member of their wealthy church. Telling some fellow Christian startup founders about this church situation, and other similar situations, and their mouths drop open in astonishment. Nearly all of their comments were similar to, “How could any church let those resources go to waste and not put them to better use?” 

Those were my sentiments exactly. I dislike watching churches waste the resources God has given them. I talked some years ago with a pastor and his wife about their church. Their church had purchased a closed down big box retail store and created a church, food bank, daycare center, and a K4 school in it. Yet about one-third of the building still sat unused, and most of the church sat unused Monday through Saturday. I asked if I could teach my now Fish Tank Startups workshop in their church and start a coworking location, but my calls were never returned. Later their web site showed they had taken my “teaching Biblical business” idea and run with it and left me out of their efforts.

I also suggested to the wealthy businessman with the church’s Sunday only coffee shop that they need to turn part of their building into a coworking spot. But these Biblical business issues extend far beyond starting a coffee shop coworking spot. The purpose is to create an entrepreneurial ecosystem based on biblical principles. 

A rising tide of prosperity lifts all boats of differing incomes, not just involving the rich and poor.

Here are the three steps. Coaching where the church embraces and engages all of everyone’s talents to start a business. Church coworking is established with other church members to grow people’s confidence, business acumen, and profitability. Commerce within the church means growing businesses to be in the “big time, big league” for the marketplace.

Coaching

Biblical entrepreneurship starts with biblical teaching, coaching, and mentoring about business. The church needs to understand how God’s economy is designed to work. It starts with understanding how to apply the Great Commandment in one’s business and in the marketplace before we understand its connection with the Great Commission. You’re to “love your neighbor as yourself,” not for nor instead of yourself. It’s about equity in business, not equality. And from the “love your neighbor as yourself,” you can now approach them at the appropriate time with, “Do you know Jesus loves you?”

Part of understanding the Great Commandment is that everyone needs to consider themselves in full-time ministry as their life’s foundation. Our lives are our ministry, not our ministry is our lives. When we overemphasize our ministries, we displace the many other aspects of our lives. Our “ministry” talents may show up as being a writer, coffee barista, accountant, but we’re also a son, daughter, father, mother, aunt, neighbor, wife, or grandfather.

The business coaching content needs a solid biblical foundation. Most entrepreneurs will be solopreneurs and rarely have more than five employees and have less than $250,000 in revenue a year. They may not design the next Apple or Facebook, but we’re not squelch the Holy Spirit’s “big dreams” if God has placed a “big idea” in their hearts.

About 15-20 percent of a church’s congregations are business owners. I attended a talk in the fall of 2018 given by Os Guinness, great-great-great-grandson of Arthur Guinness, the Dublin brewer of the Guinness beer, at The Bridge Church at Bear Creek which I grew up in. I had read the book, The Search for God and Guinness, which showed how the Guinness family’s wealth and Christianity influenced their beer business and their community. I asked what he thought about entrepreneurship within the church. His reply, “I think every Christian needs to be an entrepreneur!” That 20 percent now looks like 100 percent.

Make sure you find the right content and the right coach to help you, be wary of the “one size fits all” content when they market themselves as, “we do it all.” If they do it all, they’re weaker at doing it all. God didn’t design the liver to do the kidney’s job or the eye to do the ears job. Same with finding the right business, startup, and entrepreneurial content to learn from.

Coworking

Content teaching, mentoring, and coaching should be ongoing. Next up is Church coworking and it’s cousins co-crafting and pop-up businesses. They are designed to use a regular or irregularly used space for others to congregate and to help one another move forward in learning how to start and grow a business. Whether the coworking is for teenagers and after school business learning, semi-retired workers looking to turn their hobby into a part-time gig, or others looking for a side hustle, its purpose is putting unused church resources and our talents to use for God’s glory.

The critical issue starting a church coworking spot is ensure it is decentralize, i.e., “ad hoc” or “grassroots” style (versus centralized needing a “leader” and a “program”) as each individual brings their many talents and dreams to God’s view of the marketplace. Let the true body of Christ, under the Head of Jesus Christ and the guidance of the Holy Spirit, guide everyone. Some of the body of Christ are the eyes, others are the ears (extroverts), still others are the liver and kidneys (introverts), but all are needed for the whole body to work together in business in the marketplace (1 Cor 12).

Coworking locations have a large room or rooms where others can get coffee and work or eat snacks or lunches as the need arises. Have additional smaller rooms to have private or team meetings and larger rooms for regularly scheduled training or hands-on events. These rooms need whiteboards, about $15 each at your local Home Depot or Lowes. A 4-foot by 8-foot panel—large enough to cover a decent amount of wall space—are cheap enough to buy three to put on three walls of one room or one wall in three rooms. Forget the “go big or go home” startup mantra, start small and let God grow it as we all grow in what God has called us to do. If this is from God, you won’t be able to stop.

Luk 16:10-11 He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. Therefore if you have not been faithful in the use of unrighteous wealth, who will entrust the true riches to you?

Commerce

Once your coworking spot has a steady business tribe in the church, let’s take a look at what the future can hold for the church and the businesses in the congregation.

Phase 1: Start a church business. The church, legally through StartChurch.com, can start a small business and “pass-through” business profits to the church itself. But check with your local legal and accounting professional concerning this issue. The issue here: do not ignore this profit and income potential for the church, but do make sure you do it accurately and correctly.

Phase 2: Create and support church cottage industies. A cottage industry is usually a small-scale industry carried on at home by family members using their own equipment, or it could be equipment from the church. Products or services could come from your own congregation, cross-church congregational selling between city, urban, and rural churches, or from mission trips abroad. The main issue is keep away from a subsidy or charity and focus on a business investment mindset.

Phase 3: From selling at a farmer’s market to purchase a small strip mall. If the church business has grown, sell at a farmer’s market or retail store or buy a food or retail truck. If the businesses get big enough, a single retail location in a strip mall. If growth and profits continue to rise, buy a small strip mall which combines both business and professional services in this location. Like a restaurant, small retail, coffee shop, clothing store, exercise business, hair or nail salon combined with bookkeeping, legal, tax preparation, virtual assistants, marketing, or web services and others. 

The whole premise of a church coworking idea is to show that the church is responsible “for equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ.” (Eph 4:12) for the marketplace. The local church should no longer be teaching on Sunday everyone about their faith only. It should now consider itself as the main equipper, incubator, and accelerator of their whole congregation’s full-blown Faith + Works, or Bible + Business. The church now becomes an Biblical ecosystem for every believer’s talents, skill levels, ages, genders, and size or maturity of one’s faith. 

Let us know if you want to start or have started your own church coworking spot.